Interview with G Lucas Crane
G Lucas Crane is a sound artist and sound performer working within the mediums of the manipulated analogue cassette, live collage, noise, environment/life recording and pure frenzy. Many years recording and playing his sonic diary, put to tape and hacked to pieces live, have yielded collaborations such as the psychedelic rock band Woods, Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice and Time Life, theater work at Ps122, Here Theater and Ontological-Hysteric, and sweaty basement conflagrations around the world with his solo project, Nonhorse. He is a founding member of the art collective and performance space Silent Barn, in NYC. On December 5th at Roulette, Crane the release of the NOVA CRIMES limited edition cassette out on Green Age Records.
ROULETTE: Tell us as about the work you’ll be doing at Roulette.
G LUCAS CRANE: My performance at roulette is a great opportunity to present a project I’ve been working on since august, the NOVA project. NOVA is an image borrowed from the work of William Burroughs, and I’d been looking for a way to explore themes of “agency”, control and identity in the modern world. In Burroughs NOVA trilogy, his most famous use of ‘cut-up’ techniques, the NOVA is a criminal organization bent on total subjugation of human kind, parasitically feeding of the minds of men physically, sexually, psychically, economically, and so forth. So this project came out of wanting to do something with some of my favorite weird novels, but once I started the themes never stop bending back upon each other. Burroughs used the ‘cut-up’ methods to ‘break reality’ and release himself from the ontological prison of words and language itself, which in the novels is used by the NOVA criminals as the ultimate addiction and psychic weapon. But since I have always made cut-up sound artwork, once I started rereading the books, it was like I was immediately inside them, in some twisted modern version of them. The novels also have sort of NOVA detectives, heroes, that literally use the same techniques I use to make art to destroy control and fight psychic aliens. So the stuff gets in your head. Burroughs was very ahead of his time in his conception of how modern advertising, and propaganda work on the mind, as well as how modern terrorism and social networking works, that is leaderless agency, with different ‘cells’ working of the same ideological ‘program’. In my project, NOVA is a catch-all category for the inner turmoil of modern identity, with our rapidly developing communication technology and new emerging sense of self. Its either a pulpy concept story of artist-agents detectives receiving strange orders and messages and finding the always suspect truth, or its all true and the audience with witness my own attempt at modern self-deprogramming. I feel Its fundamentally strange to make something called “media-art” now, I think, because depending on your personal stress level you are either just simply making work, or fighting a never ending battle against the media itself, which demands all of your time, attention, and mental space. I want to play with images, themes and sounds and make a piece that evokes indirectly these massive ideas, because I feel crushed by the weight of the distinct seriousness and frivolousness of all incoming suspect information. I’m not really making this music, i’m trying to encounter something, find something.
R: Are there working artists today with whose work you identify, or rather, who do you consider to be your peers?
GLC: I admire anyone who makes what they would call music that is terribly personal. Music as a category is extremely balkanized and orthodox. Even experimental music is a genre instead of a literal experiment. I feel screwed by the rush to categorization, so I like it when people are working things out and fearless about looking rough and crazy in the application of their sound. There are a few artists working with tape that I identify with because the medium tends to require personal, dairy style dedication to sound in physical space. A cassette is a stubbornly physical medium. Aki Onda from New York City has a tape style that is focused on memory and deep listening that I really respect and aspire to. Rinus Van Alebeek from Berlin deals with the medium like a true artist/spy, his location specific tape compilations or ‘runs’ ensure that each cassette is imbued with as much gravity as possible. I’m truly inspired by Scott Spears or ‘Id M theft able’ from Maine as a performer, an example of very experimental music that is still gripping and amazing to watch, and is at once very hard to categorize. Tomutonttu out of Finland is amazing music very personally realized.
R: What are some defining characteristics of the musical scene you would fit yourself into? What elements of your scene differentiate it from what has come before, or what is happening now?
GLC: That’s a tough one. I kind of do everything. I’ve been making collage based weird music in Brooklyn for about 10 years so you tend to meet a lot of people, cross-genre. Sometimes I’m a noise musician, sometimes I do “sound design” sometimes I play psychedelic rock. I jam. I jam out, whatever that means. I’m kind of like a traveling sound plumber. I feel like when I have a bad show im a noise musician, but when I play a good show I play a totally new kind of mind destroying shit, stuff for the insects to enjoy. I feel like if you are into out-there sounds or are a sonic seeker or experimenter, then you are not in a genre or scene per se, but instead you have a use and a sensitivity that is useful in many contemporary contexts. Some people play the guitar or violin, ancient instruments that are whole worlds of history and sociality into themselves. And these things have an expressive use to people in describing their world and experiences. If you experiment with sound then you actually play “an experiment’ as an instrument, and that can be aesthetically very useful right now, as our usual sensory experience as modern humans is now packed with all kinds of throw away noise and data with a questionable pedigree. I think if you are an experimental musician now a days its important to collaborate as much as possible and get out of your comfort zone. I identify with self taught musicians, people just starting out, people who just decide to play with nothing but passion and an idea. That probably sounds weird because it seems like everyone wants to make art these days, but art is a personal spiritual thing that I think makes you a better person, so the more the merrier.
R: What was the last music you listened to?
GLC: I’ve been listening to a lot of Lori Anderson actually, but only because I found a tape in an old mix tape stuck in a player at a thrift store. I’ve been listening to a lot of Twankle and Glisten mixtapes and DJ Screw stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of this songwriter ‘Stanly Brinks’ from Berlin. Lots of R Kelly as usual. Sublime Frequencies stuff. C Cat Trance. Random Turkish music tapes. Lots of Turkish music always. This band CoolHaven from Rotterdam. I listen to just the audio from horrible action movies for fun. its like drinking a bitter aperitif.
R: What is music?
GLC: Music is a time binding personal expression and art form utilizing permeating waves and vibrations. There is a scale or spectrum of sound and everyone puts the threshold of what is music and what is not at a different place.
R: Do you consider yourself more a composer or a performer?
GLC: A performer defiantly, because I do everything in a frenzy. Its just my nature. but composition and the codification of my personal inner hieroglyphic process is a goal of mine. Its going to take the rest of my life.
R: Is there an event or experience that led you to start in experimental media?
GLC: Yeah. I set up a confession booth in my closet when I was in college. It was just a tape deck and a chair. People would just stop by and close the closet door and talk randomly into the tape deck. And for some reason, I didn’t listen to it until the end of the year. The shear breath of the intimacy and span of the time and the emotions fused onto a single cassette propelled me forward into using them as a cheap quick sampler dairy. I used to want to write, but I realized at a young age that most art forms and mediums require a lot of alone time in their actual application. Except music. Sound and performance are the art forms that are out of the house and boiled in the soup of public discourse. That’s the thing for me. If you collage you need things to collage, you need input.
R: What is interesting to you about your own work?
GLC: It seems to go on forever. I like being able to just interface with lots of different kinds of artistic and social situations, despite playing a very specific weird thing. I like to recycle my environment and my work allows me to be very free with what I put on each tape, but at the same time be very focused about how and when I play each tape. In a collage there’s what material you choose to collage and then there’s how you put it together. That’s the divide.
R: Do you do other things aside from music?
GLC: I’m a working artist. It’s all the same to me.
R: Other thoughts?
GLC: I’m starting to suspect that due to how humans are asked to live now, with their splintering digital identities and lightning fast social communication requirements, that the dominant form of expression is now a collage, and all art forms are becoming more and more like a collage, or require those strategies and skills. I suspect a collage most closely mirrors our internal sensory experience of the world, but I’m probably very biased in that regard!